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Emanuel Taking Lucas Museum Fight To Federal Appeals Court

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A day after George Lucas and Mellody Hobson said they've begun exploring options outside Chicago for their proposed lakefront museum, the Emanuel administration said it would be going to a federal appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit holding up the project.

The mayor's office said they would be asking a federal appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Friends of the Parks, who have been trying to prevent construction of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on a site just south of Soldier Field, arguing the project would violate the public trust and lakefront protection laws.

After a federal judge allowed that lawsuit to proceed, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed instead tearing down McCormick Places' Lakeside Center and replacing it with the Lucas Museum and 12 acres of park space. While Friends of the Parks agreed to the city's request for a 30-day stay of its lawsuit while City Hall sought state approval of the alternative plan, the group said it would oppose any lakefront site for the museum.

"After having productive conversations with Friends of the Parks, and after the organization agreed to stay its lawsuit, their abrupt and complete change of position has proven that they cannot be trusted, and we will not allow them to hold this project hostage any longer," the mayor's office said in a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon.

After Friends of the Parks confirmed their opposition to the McCormick Place alternative, Lucas and Hobson began looking for a new home for the museum outside of Chicago, so now the city is hoping a federal appeals court will clear the way for the original plan.

"Friends of the Parks' claims for federal relief are frivolous, and we can no longer wait for the completion of legal proceedings to correct these legal errors on appeal. Due to the extraordinary circumstances here, if immediate review is denied, there will be no litigation to appeal, as the museum will abandon its efforts to locate in Chicago," the mayor's office said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the mayor said the debate over the Lucas Museum needs to be reset. Emanuel said the only alternative to building the Lucas Museum on the city's lakefront is allowing it to go to Los Angeles or San Francisco, not somewhere off the lakefront in Chicago.


The mayor said the decision to build the Lucas Museum on the lakefront should be an easy one to make, especially since Lucas and Hobson would pay for it. He said the choice is between replacing a parking lot with a museum or keeping the parking lot and letting the museum be built in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

"Just step back. Don't play who wins who loses. Just look at it. I'm for Chicago to be a winner, and all the people of the city of Chicago. It will be built,"

Emanuel noted either proposal for the Lucas Museum in Chicago would see it built on a stretch of lakefront property that already has been developed.

"You have three other museums, Soldier Field, and McCormick Place right there. So it's not like it's violating something that other buildings are not part of," he said.

Emanuel said the museum proposals call for building on the lakefront, because Lucas and Hobson are putting up hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money to build it, and that's where they want it to go.

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